Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (EM:HE) is an American reality television series providing home improvements for less fortunate families and community schools etc. The show is hosted by former model, carpenter and veteran television personality Ty Pennington.
Each episode features a family that has faced some sort of recent or ongoing hardship such as a natural disaster or a family member with a life-threatening illness, in need of new hope. The show's producers coordinate with a local construction contractor, which then coordinates with various companies in the building trades for a makeover of the family's home. This includes interior, exterior and landscaping, performed in seven days while the family is on vacation (paid for by the show's producers) and documented in the episode. If the house is beyond repair, they replace it entirely. The show's producers and crew film set and perform the makeover but do not pay for it. The materials and labor are donated. Many skilled and unskilled volunteers assist in the rapid construction of the house.
EM:HE is considered a spinoff of Extreme Makeover, an earlier series providing personal makeovers (often including plastic surgery) to selected individuals, which the Home Edition has now outlasted. This show displays extreme changes to help recreate someone's space. However, the format differs considerably; in the original Extreme Makeover, for instance, participants were not necessarily chosen based on any recent hardship, whereas the family's backstory is an important component of Home Edition. EM:HE also has similarities to other home renovation series such as Trading Spaces, on which Pennington was previously a key personality.
The series is produced by Endemol USA (the people behind Big Brother, Fear Factor, Deal or No Deal, Wipeout, and other reality shows) in association with Disney-ABC Television Group's Greengrass Television. The current Executive Producers are Brady Connell and George Verschoor.
The program originally aired on Sunday evenings but was moved to Friday nights as of October 21, 2011. Upon the airing of its final episode in series form, and for the 2012 special holiday run, it remains ABC's last series to air solely in 4:3 standard definition and has never converted to a high definition or widescreen presentation.
On December 15, 2011, ABC announced that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition would end its run on January 13, 2012. It will, however, continue to air as a special on the network. The show's staff however became big supporters of Habitat for Humanity, and since the end of the show has often referred them.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition premiered as a thirteen-part special on Wednesday, December 3, 2003, and had its official series premiere on Sunday February 15, 2004. It is currently one of ABC's top-rated series and has become far more popular than the original Extreme Makeover, which struggled in the ratings through its last two seasons and quietly ended with its episodes burned off wholesale in July 2007. The show ranked 41st in its first season, averaging 10.6 million viewers per episode, with the pilot episode bringing in 12 million viewers. However its ratings soared thereafter with the second season entering the top 20, finishing 15th for the year, averaging 15.8 million viewers per episode. The next four seasons each ranked at least in the top 30, with seasons two and three ranking in the top 20, and seasons four and five ranking in the top 25. The sixth season, however, fell out of the top 35, and ranked only 38th, hitting an all-time low of only 10.3 million viewers per episode. The seventh season, continued to fall in the ratings, ranking 39th, hitting a new low of 9.1 million viewers. By season eight, the show barely ranked in the top 50 with just over 8.5 million viewers per episode on average. Series reruns began airing on TV Land on Tuesday August 7, 2007, making it the youngest non-original show to air on the network. The show is also in syndication on CMT.
The show is hosted by Ty Pennington, formerly a carpenter on the show Trading Spaces. The series is devoted to rebuilding families' homes when the family is in need of new hope.
During the 2005-2006 season, the show went to areas hit by Hurricane Katrina and helped communities to rebuild themselves with help from other organizations.
The show also had a series of specials that later became a regular series during the 2004-2005 television season entitled Extreme Makeover Home Edition: How"d They Do That? It was a short-lived spin-off of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that featured extra behind-the-scenes footage of what had happened in that week's episode. An occasional special would feature The Muppets, property of ABC, engaging in comical scenes with the design team. However, their scenes were usually filmed after the renovation.
Two episodes in two different cities are shot at the same time (a few days apart), using two different production crews. There are also two groups of designers. Ty Pennington flies back and forth between the cities to do the "door knock", the braveheart march, and the "reveal", as well as to finish up work on his projects, which he mentions and gives walk-throughs in his magazine. The amount of work that Ty and the design team put into the house itself and the projects they take on depend mostly on the amount of filming needed to be done. In some circumstances, such as smaller makeovers or makeovers scheduled to be two-hour episodes, the lead designers lay out a general idea for their projects, and the show's backup designers take over. Generally, the lead designers are notified in advance of the makeover recipients, to enable them to start their plans ahead of time. At several makeovers, they have been criticized for never doing any work at all, and just being there to put on a show. In 2007, during the makeover for the Carter Family in Billings, Montana, a local radio DJ accused Pennington of using a spray can of grease on his face to make it look like he was really working, only to be confronted over the air by Pennington himself, who called in from the construction site. The largest piece of evidence to prove the design team's contribution to the house and the family is a severe hand injury that Ed Sanders received during a 2006 makeover in Ohio for the family of Jason Thomas. While creating a wood carving of the American flag, Sanders removed part of the guard for a hand-held wood grinder, which led to him slicing one of his hands open. Sanders took a leave of absence for nearly an entire season to recover. Pennington works on the show over 240 days out of the year, while the remaining designers work in shifts. During the production season, crew members work for two weeks, then are off for one week. The show usually begins shooting in June and goes through March or April, leaving one to two months of downtime. During the off-season, crew members occasionally work on pre-season episodes. Location managers work constantly, often spending a month in a city before selecting it as the next site.
ABC receives thousands of applications from families in need, and the team says that it is extremely hard to filter through the stories and choose only one of them. The families they look for must meet two criteria: first, they must be truly deserving and in need of the makeover, and second, they must be the kind of people who give something of themselves back to their community. The main theme of the show is advocacy, as each family that is selected helps to address a wide range of issues in American society. The show has helped families who have been victimized by a form of loss or tragic event, experienced a certain hardship and most of all, advocate on ways to treat, face and prevent such losses. The show has helped families of veterans, single parents, and families with children who have illnesses ranging from childhood cancers to HIV/AIDS, as well as children with mental illnesses and disabilities such as autism. The show has helped families victimized by natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes, as well as families who have dealt with house fires and mold contamination. Other instances include families who have either lost loved ones or had loved ones injured in car accidents (including alcohol-related incidents), domestic violence, gang-related crimes and drug abuse. Every episode makes a family stand as an advocate of awareness of such problems.
The majority of episodes are one hour; however, in some instances (mainly if complications are involved, or if the makeover involves more than just the family home) the episode will be a two-parter and will start at 7 PM Eastern Time (one hour ahead of its normal 8 PM Eastern Time slot). In the UK, some of the two-hour episodes air as one single program instead of as two separate parts.
Most shows in the first three seasons begin with a shot of Pennington in the team's bus saying, "I'm Ty Pennington, and the renovation starts right now!" The exceptions are those episodes which feature a guest host in his place.
In the fourth and fifth seasons, the opening shot is of Ty in a location iconic of the state the episode was in, and a declaration of what state the episode is in is added to the tagline. Then, the chosen family is briefly profiled; their nomination video is shown to the team (and to the television audience).
Ty then brings the team together in a huddle and leads them in a chant of "Let's do it!" Next, Ty and the design team visit the family's home and proceed to give the family a "wake-up call" (courtesy of Ty's infamous bullhorn) by shouting "Good Morning [family's name] family!" then introducing each family member. The team will then go throughout the house, finding out about the family's interests as design inspiration.
The family will then be sent off on a one-week vacation (where applicable, airfare is provided by Southwest Airlines, whose involvement is noted at the end of the show) while the house is renovated or demolished, depending on its condition and the family's needs. One episode in season three did not include a vacation because a family's daughter was in isolation at a local hospital. As the family is taking vacation, they receive video messages via computer laptop from Pennington's camera. The videos displayed on the laptop are superimposed on broadcasts to avoid both screen glare and the requirement of paying advertising royalties on the software used in the videos.
Beginning with Season 3, the demolitions have become quite creative; the team has used falling trees, tanks, and even monster trucks to accomplish the task where needed. In 2007, they used dynamite to blow up one family's old house in Wyoming. In 2008, a rather innovative episode showed Ty and his team rolling a five hundred pound bowling ball through the house to eventually demolish a family's "bowling-themed, Big Lebowski inspired" bathroom.
A local home builder (sometimes two builders) and community volunteers begin basic work (electrical, plumbing, roofing, and, if the house is demolished, framing a new one) while the design team begins designing the creative aspects of the house. Once the basic work is completed, the design team then will add the finishing touches. Ty selects a portion of the house to be his "secret room" (except in the case when the secret project takes place in the backyard), which no one is allowed to view prior to final reveal (with one exception in Season 4, which involved a commercial kitchen; the health inspector had to approve the kitchen and issue the permit before it could be used). Shows often feature design team members making a trip to a local Sears store as well as special guest appearances.
At the end of the week, the family returns to their home to see cheering crowds and the view of their home blocked by a bus (for larger projects, two buses would block the home). When Ty and the family give the order, originally, "Bus driver, hit it!" and later the much more famous, "Bus driver, move that bus!!" (or "those buses!!"), the family sees the end result of the team's efforts. Pennington's secret room is usually the last item featured on the show. Often, a child's bedroom, the parent's master bedroom or a business room receives Pennington's special attention. Some episodes feature special gifts given to the family by outside parties. The show always ends with Ty saying, "There's only one thing left to say. Welcome Home [family's name] family, welcome home." This is often followed by applause from the family, design team, and whoever else is there.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: How'd They Do That? was a short-lived show that featured extra behind-the-scenes footage of what had happened in that week's episode.
"After the Storm"
Beginning on March 23, 2006, ABC featured a four-week special episode series, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition - After the Storm". The series featured the rebuilding (in part) of communities destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. See below for episode listings.
Reaction and criticism
Since the show premiered in December 2003, one of the show's strongest supporters has been the Parents Television Council which not only gives the show its coveted "Seal of Approval", but has also named it the most family-friendly series on network television on its website since the show's second season and frequently names it the best show of the week. The show is also praised by the Parents Television Council for promoting altruistic ideals such as helping others in need and thinking of others. At every makeover, thousands of people participate by donating their time, money, and help. By the beginning of the show's seventh season, an estimated 500,000 Americans had helped with the show.
However, while the show has usually earned positive reviews and even earned two Emmy Awards, it has often been criticized by some viewers for unnecessary contributions and glorifying excessive suburban lifestyles, such as in a Mother Jones article that questioned giving a 6-bedroom, 7-bath, 7-television house to a family of 4 in Kingston, WA. However, this criticism was countered by the fact that the family was using a portion of the house as a bed and breakfast.
In an article entitled "ABC's 'Extreme Exploitation'", The Smoking Gun published an e-mail sent on March 10, 2006, from an ABC employee to network affiliates, relaying a message from the program's casting agent detailing specific tragedies and rare illnesses sought by the show. Included were a "Muscular Dystrophy Child", a "Family who has multiple children w/ Down Syndrome (either adopted or biological)" and a child with Congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis. This last request included a parenthetical remark stating, "There are only 17 known cases in US - let me know if one is in your town!"
This e-mail has led some major media networks and blogs to accuse the show of opportunism in seeking out the most sensational stories in a push for higher ratings.
Another criticism aimed at the show surrounds financial issues that some of the families have had after receiving the home makeover, the majority of which have been found to be grossly exaggerated or completely untrue altogether. The most common allegation is that most of the families have sold their houses due to their inability to pay for them, and some have gone into foreclosure. The most widely known case involved the Harper Family, who sometime after receiving a new house from the show placed a $450K Home Equity loan on the house and used the funds to start a construction business, which failed after the housing market crash in 2007. As a result, the loan went into default and the family faced foreclosure. A few other families, including the Wofford, Vardon and Marrero families, have had some struggles, but most sources specifically point out that these troubles have little to do with the show or the makeover, and more to do with the recession.
A major criticism of the show comes from viewers who believe the makeovers are overly extravagant and that the effort could be redirected to more productive areas. In several cases, once the makeover process is complete, the families are heavily scrutinized by neighbors in the towns or cities who claim that they didn't deserve the makeover. The Huber Family of South Range, Wisconsin, is one example of a family who received criticism from the residents in the vicinity of their home. For the season premiere makeover in August 2009, the show's staff and over 2,300 volunteers built a house for Howard Huber, a decorated firefighter, and his wife and two children. Almost immediately after the makeover, the family received several critical responses from people in the area, several of whom claimed the family did not have the right to the home makeover. In an article from the Duluth News Tribune, Jessie Huber stated that several people visited their home and stated the family did not deserve the home makeover. The criticisms escalated to a point where the Huber family felt it necessary to place visual warnings against trespassers, saying, "Please respect our privacy." In addition, the family enlisted the help of the Douglas County Sheriff, who lived right down the road from their home.
Another case involved the Tutweiler family of Chapman, Kansas, the family of an Iraq War Veteran who had lost their old home in a tornado. The Tutweilers received extremely negative criticism from their neighbors. In December 2009, the family put their home up for sale and made plans to move out of Kansas because of the scrutiny and ill feelings from their neighbors. According to Crystal Tutweiler, "We absolutely hate to leave the house, and we wish we could pick it up and take it with us, but it is not the house which makes you happy."
The five children of the Higgins family, aged 14-21, filed a lawsuit against ABC after they were evicted by a family that had taken them in before the show came to renovate the family's house. The five kids "say that the producers took advantage of the family's hard-luck story and promised them new cars and other prizes to persuade them to participate in the program", according to the LA Times. On July 17, 2007, Judge Paul Gutman ruled against the siblings, stating that the plaintiffs failed to prove their case. The decision of the trial court was affirmed on appeal.
Questions arose when Theresa "Momi" Akana was picked for the Extreme Makeover program for Hawaii. The Honolulu Advertiser investigated their tax records and found out that she and her husband each made over $100,000 in salary. Denise Cramsey, the executive producer of the show, responded with "I think Momi certainly fits the bill." She defended the pick by stating that they look beyond the family's finances and consider other factors, including family plight and contributions to the community.
In 2006, Extreme Makeover Home Edition tore down Brian and Michelle Hassall's once modest Harrison County home and built the new sizable one in its place. Just months later, the couple put their nearly brand new, donated home up for sale. The Hassalls said the decision to sell their extreme home "wasn't an easy one", but they realized it was necessary due to rising medical bills.
American television ratings
Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on ABC.